Skynet Technologies

News (Web Designing, Web Hosting and related News)

May

 

Businesses need to understand the security issues of Web 2.0 and Social Networking

The adoption of Web 2.0 makes the job of keeping email and the web free from attacks, malware and spam even more difficult. Yet, simply closing access to unapproved tools can be short sighted as unhappy employees drift to rival businesses with more enlightened policies.

Web 2.0 is growing with increasing momentum and businesses seem to be harnessing some of its benefits to bring them closer to their customers and improve overall brand experience. However Web 2.0 as a concept is quite vague and is becoming all encompassing. Firstly it is important for businesses to distinguish between Web 2.0 social networks and Web 2.0 functionality in the workplace; Social Media is very similar to Web 2.0 the only main difference is that social media focuses on people and Web 2.0 focuses on content.

Social Networks are heavily focused at keeping in touch with friends and sharing photos, video and chatting in real time. Using social networks such as Myspace, Twitter and Facebook in the workplace is arguably questionable in terms of how it benefits the business. Evidently organisations need to keep staff happy and not enforce draconian rules upon them; however providing such a distracting media in the workplace and encouraging its use can't be beneficial.

Web 2.0 functionality however can be very beneficial. Using a combination of different mediums (web, audio, and video) to convey a message to new and existing clients can be used to great effect. A number of Pentura's clients have started to use such techniques drawing on the principles of the social networking environments to provide a new canvas for marketing. An example of this was a company that produces cosmetics, which used Web 2.0 functionality to provide a feature rich website for customers to become members of if they were interested in the brand in question. Additionally members could liaise with each other via chat but also enter online competitions and win prizes.

The original question of security is significant in both instances as both use diverse integrated functionality to convey information. Social networking sites' very essence is defined by feature rich functionality and this encompasses web, chat, audio, video, pictures and integrated applications. There are issues of personal data to consider with profile information but the most significant risks exist with the integrated applications as these can be hosted third party and not subject to any security or information assurance controls. In the last 18 months it has been demonstrated that these applications can have malware or functionality issues, which have serious security implications.

Business are becoming more aware of the security risks associated with using Web 2.0 however, existing security architectures have a limited ability to manage them effectively. Most block at a higher level, which inhibits useful functionality or just block the URL outright. Firewall technology mostly enforces policy at network layer with a degree of layer application functionality but again with limited effect.

Technologies are now starting to emerge, which offer granular control of Web 2.0 functionality. Palo Alto Networks offer one such technology, which is currently unique in the Firewall marketplace. It allows businesses to gain user application usage visibility and affect a policy to control Web 2.0 applications from almost any aspect such as chat, email, apps and file transfer.

Companies that harness Web 2.0 technology for their own use should make sure their application and website code is fully checked and written in a secure manner as experience shows the use of third party libraries can diminish a business's security baseline and should be used prudently. Businesses need to understand the security issues of both Web 2.0 and Social Networking as their use in the workplace seems to be here to stay.

Pentura Limited is exhibiting at Infosecurity Europe 2010, on 27th - 29th April in its new venue Earl's Court, London. www.infosec.co.uk

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Strong Authentication Not Strong Enough

Two-factor authentication -- used to protect online bank accounts with both a password and a computer-generated one-time passcode -- is supposed to be more secure than relying on a single password.

But Gartner Research VP Avivah Litan warns that cyber criminals have had success defeating two-factor authentication systems in Web browsing sessions using Trojan-based man-in-the-middle attacks.

A Gartner Research note written by Litan explains that in the past few months, Gartner has heard from many banks around the world that rely on one-time-password authentication systems. Accounts at these banks have been compromised by man-in-the-middle attacks -- the report uses the term "man-in-the-browser" -- despite the use of two-factor security.

One technique that the fraudsters have been using to bypass security controls is call forwarding.

"[B]anks that rely on voice telephony for user transaction verification have seen those systems and processes compromised by thieves who persuade telecom carriers to forward legitimate user phone calls to the thief's cell phone," the report says. "These targeted attacks have resulted in theft of money and/or information, if the bank has no other defenses sufficient to prevent unauthorized access to their applications and customer accounts."

A man-in-the-middle attack involves using software or hardware to intercept network traffic then send it to its destination so that the information can be used without the knowledge of the sender or the intended recipient.

In an e-mail, Litan said that the attacks have involved the Zeus Trojan and other customized malware.

The malware sometimes uses anti-forensic capabilities that re-write account balances in the user's browser, so that the user believes his or her bank account has the funds it should, even through it is empty.

The Gartner report recommends addition defenses to monitor user behavior and/or transaction values, as well as out-of-band transaction verification.

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which issued a warning about attacks on commercial bank accounts in November, total losses as of October amounted to about $100 million so far this year.

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Online shoppers face virtual queues

The majority of online shoppers have to deal with 'virtual' shop queues in the run-up to Christmas because of poor-performing websites, according to research by hosting company Fasthosts.

Over 80 per cent of shoppers surveyed said that they had found websites working slower at Christmas time.

And 42 per cent of customers have actually abandoned purchases on slow-running sites while buying their gifts, with 34 per cent then more likely to switch to a competitor's site during this period.

The poor performance ranged from slow product searches, delayed payment processes and delays in receiving email confirmations.

One in four shoppers believe that it is caused by too many seasonal offers and products being added to sites in November and December and 28 per cent of them then admit to feeling negatively towards retailers because of the stress it causes.

Customers in the North West are the least forgiving with 34 per cent of them believing their opinion of retailers are negatively impacted.

Steve Holford of Fasthosts said: "The data shows that while many firms sell successfully online, usability can take a real knock at the most crucial time of the year.

"Shoppers today are more impatient and unforgiving than ever before, and are ready to source an alternative," he continued.

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Add vouchers to your newsletters

A survey of Brick newsletters found that 80% of newsletters sent with promotion codes or vouchers received higher click-through rates and conversions than campaigns with no incentives. The Internet is a growing place to find vouchers and deals. Over the last three years, the number of shoppers that get their coupons online has increased by 46 percent.

Click through rates are much higher when the reader is offered an incentive. When sending out your newsletter don't forget to encourage recipients with promotions or incentives.

A recent industry survey showed that 66% of online shoppers have used promotion codes and vouchers in the past year, most to save money and 30% of these saying that it encouraged them to try a new product or service.

Brick clients have a powerful system in their control centre that easily allows you to create promo codes and discounts and apply to categories or individual products. This can be set to automatically expire at a given date/time and you can even set a minimum spend to qualify.

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Promoted Videos: Be discovered on YouTube

There are now 20 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute which means making sure your video is seen by the right people at the right time is no mean feat. How does a savvy marketer uploading a YouTube video get discovered and build up a fan base? and how can a top brand immediately test the effectiveness of new ad creative on YouTube? Not every business can rely on the word-of-mouth approach that has turned an imaginative wedding planner into a world-wide sensation!

Now, every business in the UK can now benefit from Promoted Videos, a new advertising programme that combines the precision of AdWords with the power of YouTube. Through the new AdWords interface, advertisers of all sizes will now be able to create a Google style campaign that is Keyword targeted and priced on performance (CPC) to trigger their video ad in locations across YouTube and the Google Content Network where users generally go to discover great videos.

In addition to being a great resource for advertisers, this will also enable improved monetization for YouTube Partners and publishers across the content network.

Similar to sponsored links on Google, the advertiser will only pay for their Promoted Video when a user clicks on their ad. Advertisers will also be able to add a "Call-to-Action" clickable overlay to their Promoted Videos, allowing them to drive viewers to a website off YouTube, helping them to drive more conversions.

Promoted Videos are a combination of a video and an advertisement, and like sponsored links on Google, are a great way to run a direct response campaign. They are also a great way to raise brand awareness as well. Anyone can use Promoted Videos to make sure their video ads find a larger audience, whether they are a start-up business trying to break out with a new product or service, a film studio seeking to promote an exciting movie trailer, or a car manufacturer, looking to promote a new car model.

With Christmas around the corner we hope Promoted Videos will provide advertisers with the ability to reach the right people at the right time and at a price of their choosing.

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Twitter briefly blocked by hackers

NEW YORK - Hackers briefly blocked access to the popular Internet messaging service Twitter, steering traffic to another Web site where a group reportedly calling itself the "Iranian Cyber Army" claimed responsibility.

Users trying to reach Twitter early Friday were redirected to a Web page that CNN reported had a picture of a green flag and a message that said, "This site has been hacked by the Iranian Cyber Army."

There was no evidence the hackers are actually linked to Iran. Web sites like Twitter and Facebook helped bring attention to the Iranian opposition during the country's crackdown after its June elections, with users posting minute-by-minute updates and amateur video.

Twitter later Friday posted a message on its blog that said its Domain Name Systems' records "were temporarily compromised but have now been fixed." The site says it will update with more details "once we've investigated more fully."

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Google Chrome more popular than Apple Safari

Google has been busy plastering London town with ads for its new Chrome browser in recent weeks, with the latest news - that Chrome is now more popular than Apple's Safari internet browser - seeming to prove that advertising does actually work.

NetApplications claims that Chrome has 4.4 per cent of the worldwide browser market, after Internet Explorer and Firefox, and that Apple's Safari fractionally only has a mere 4.37 per cent.

NetApplications put Google Chrome in the third-place spot after Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox for the week of December 6 through to the 12.

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IE security hole launches e-mail attachments

A security hole in Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser can cause the browser to automatically open e-mail attachments that could be used by an attacker to execute malicious code, the company has warned.

The flaw exists in versions 5.01 and 5.5 of the browser, and affects how Internet Explorer processes attachments to HTML e-mail encoded with the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) standard, Microsoft said in a security bulletin posted to its Web site.

MIME is a widely used Internet standard for encoding binary files as e-mail attachments.

The flaw could result in IE launching an e-mail attachment automatically, which could leave computers vulnerable to malicious attack, Microsoft warned in the bulletin.

Microsoft has developed a patch that can be downloaded from its Web site. The company said Internet Explorer users should download and install the patch immediately. A fix for the MIME problem is also included in IE 5.0 Service Pack 2, so users who have already downloaded the service pack do not have to download a new patch, according to the company.

Microsoft said the problem can also be avoided if file downloads have been disabled in the corresponding "Security Zone" in Internet Explorer. That setting is not a default in Internet Explorer and would have to be selected by the user, Microsoft warned.

The company said the hole could enable attackers to run a program of their choice on the machine of an unsuspecting user.

Such a program would be capable of taking any action on the affected machine, including adding data, changing or deleting it, communicating with Web sites or reformatting a hard drive.

"In order for the attacker to successfully attack the user via this vulnerability, she would need to be able to persuade the user to either browse to a Web site she controlled or open an HTML e-mail that she had sent," Microsoft stated in the bulletin.

The security bulletin comes just one day after bug hunter Georgi Guninski said he had discovered a bug in Internet Explorer that could let malicious hackers read the e-mail and computer files of some unsuspecting people.

A software developer, Juan Carlos Cuartango, reported the latest issue to Microsoft and helped prepare a patch for the security hole, according to the company.

Microsoft has been increasingly criticized in recent years for allegedly valuing interoperability between its products over security. In an effort to provide various pieces of software that interact with each other, some security experts say the company has failed in addressing possible holes that could allow malicious hacker exploits.

Security "is an ongoing issue with Internet Explorer because it is such a complicated software that interoperates with many other applications that it is too difficult to figure out all of these vulnerabilities," said Richard Smith, chief privacy officer at the Denver-based nonprofit group The Privacy Foundation.

For instance, Microsoft's Outlook messaging software, which is used by millions of people, played a key role in the rapid spread of viruses including I Love You and Melissa.

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Is Firefox 3.5 the most popular browser?

After years of playing second fiddle to Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, Mozilla Firefox is now on top.

According to new data from the StatCounter.com, Firefox 3.5 is now the most popular browser version in the world at 21.9 percent, surpassing IE 7 21.2 percent.

The catch (because there always is one with stats) is that on a cumulative basis - that is including all versions of IE currently in use and all Firefox versions currently in use - IE is still ahead.

Combining IE 6, 7 and 8 usage gives Microsoft a great than 50 percent share while Firefox holds just over 30 percent.

The problem from my personal perspective with browser stats is that they vary widely depending on the sites surveyed. Then there is also the issue of multiple browser usage. Many users - myself included - use more than one browser (for various reasons).

Still, it's an interesting and positive result for Firefox, to have the leading browser version - well at least according to one set of stats. It shows the continued positive momentum of Firefox, 5 years after the 1.0 release.

Will there come a day when Firefox across all versions dominates? I think it could, but that day isn't today (or tomorrow).

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Delete yourself from Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn

A website has launched which lets you "reclaim your life" by deleting your MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn profile. Best of all, it rips the accounts apart bit-by-bit and you get to watch it.

All you have to do is put in your login details and password, and a script will open up a Firefox browser and automatically click through the process of deleting your profile pic, removing your connections to all your friends, and posting a final "last words" before removing your account once and for all.

So if you're feeling the pressure of getting poked just that little too much and want to end it all - virtually, of course - then head over to The Web 2.0 Suicide Machine and enjoy an hour or so of watching dialog boxes being clicked.

Just don't come crying to us when you change your mind and want it all back. Oh, and for that matter we'd never recommend giving your passwords out, so it's all at your own risk. Think carefully about giving some random website your details.

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Microsoft to pay $290m damages for patent infringement

Microsoft has been barred from selling its flagship word processor Word and must pay $290 million in damages for infringing a patent held by a small Canadian software company, i4i.

The ruling, by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, prevents Microsoft from selling any versions of Word 2003 or Word 2007 after January 11, 2010. Copies of these products sold before this date are not affected.

Loudon Owen, the chairman of i4i, described the ruling as "a war cry for talented inventors whose patents are infringed".

"The same guts and integrity that are needed to invent and go against the herd are at the heart of success in patent litigation against a behemoth like Microsoft," he said.

Mr Owen said that the XML feature at the heart of the dispute was an important tool for users such as drugs companies who routinely handled large amounts of data.

By removing it from its Word 2007 software Microsoft would disadvantage those users.

"We now expect to see a lot of new customers at our door," he said.

He did not rule out licensing the XML feature to Microsoft. "They know where to find us if they want to talk," he said.

In court documents filed during its long-running dispute with i4i, Microsoft had originally claimed that a ban on sales "will inflict irreparable harm on Microsoft by potentially keeping the centerpiece of its product line out of the market for months."

But yesterday the company brushed off the ruling, saying that it had already "put the wheels in motion" to remove the disputed feature from its products.

"We expect to have copies of Microsoft Word 2007 and Office 2007, with this feature removed, available for US sale and distribution by the injunction date," Kevin Kutz, Microsoft's director of public affairs, said.

He added that the beta versions of Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010, which are available now for downloading, do not contain the technology covered by the injunction.

The ruling follows an earlier injunction issued by a US disctict court in Texas barring Microsoft from selling recent versions if its Word software, after the company was found to have wilfully infringed a patent held by i4i, a Toronto-based technology company, through the use of a technology used to classify documents for retrieval by computers.

That injunction was stayed while Microsoft appealed.

In the latest ruling, the three-judge panel said: "A small company was practicing its patent, only to suffer a loss of market share, brand recognition, and customer goodwill as the result of the defendant's infringing acts."

It noted that the "district court found that Microsoft captured 80 percent of the custom XML market with its infringing Word products, forcing i4i to change its business strategy."

Mr Kutz said that while Microsoft was now "moving quickly to address the injunction issue", the company was also considering its legal options, which could include a request for a rehearing by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals or taking the case to the US Supreme Court.

Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, an independent firm of analysts, said that retooling its World 2007 and Office 2007 software could bring problems for Microsoft.

"Any time you touch the software, whether to add something or take something out, you create a situation where a significant amount of testing has to be done to ensure you don't do something unintended," he said.

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Cloud computing focus in 2010, analysts predict

Cloud computing and Web 2.0 will be the dominant technological focuses of 2010, research by Logicalis has suggested.

Indeed, a move toward cloud computing could bring benefits for the IT industry, Adam Bosnian, vice-president of products, strategy and sales at Cyber-Ark said.

"Almost any size of organisation can use public or private cloud resources and enjoy significantly enhanced economies of scale," said Mr Bosnian.

He added that using cloud computing services can help to reduce spend on powering server disks that are only partially used, noting that with the cloud, "only a small minority" of servers do not have data stored on them.

The Logicalis research - conducted by polling a range of chief information officers and chief technology officers - found that cloud computing was popular because of its flexible design and cost benefits.

Besides cloud computing and Web 2.0, virtual desktops are likely to grow in popularity over the coming year, the research found.

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Firefox 3.6 delayed until spring 2010

Firefox 3.6, which Mozilla had previously confirmed was to launch this month has been delayed until spring 2010.

The Mozilla wiki has been updated to include "ship Firefox 3.6" as a goal for the first quarter of 2010.

Firefox 3.6 brings minor tweaks and some personalisation tools to the browser and a claimed 25% reduction in start-up time on Windows.

The browser will also bring the potential to take advantage of accelerometers as well as open, native video support.

Firefox 4.0, which was due to launch in 2010 has also been pushed back - this time to "late 2010 or early 2011," according to the Mozilla wiki. Firefox 4.0 beta will be made available in the summer of 2010.

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Where is Net Privacy Headed in 2010?

The issue of Internet privacy has a broad spectrum of views, from 'you have none, get over it' to almost militant paranoia. Most folks fall somewhere in between, as is often the case, but even if you are blasť about the situation, with so many cases of identity theft, you'd be a fool to ignore it.

However, 2010 may be the year the government gets on the stick and makes some changes. eSecurity Planet has the details.

For consumer groups that concern themselves with Internet privacy, the efforts to press policymakers to enact regulations or pass laws setting boundaries for collecting data online recall the plight of the long-suffering Brooklyn Dodgers fan: "Wait 'til next year" serves as a fitting mantra for both.

So 2009 came and went with little movement on the privacy front, but advocates are looking ahead to 2010 with high hopes that this year, finally, will be their year.

And they may be right.

The best hope for groups looking to advance the privacy agenda in 2010 rests with the Federal Trade Commission, which has been sending signals that closer scrutiny is on its way.

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Big Blue Brings Better Code Security to Rational

As application security threats continue to grow, the need for greater code quality analysis is critical. One of the key tools in the fight for better and more secure code quality is a technique known as static analysis, which is an area that IBM (NYSE: IBM) jumped into in 2009 with the acquisition of Ounce Labs.

Now six months after the acquisition announcement, the Ounce Labs static analysis tools are part of the IBM Rational family of products, which also include the AppScan product line for dynamic analysis. Ounce Labs static analysis technology has been rebranded as the IBM Rational AppScan Source Edition. With the integration of the Ounce tools, IBM now has both static and dynamic analysis capabilities in its effort to more thoroughly secure application code.

"In our discussions with IBM running up to the acquisition, it was clear that IBM was continuing their success on the dynamic analysis side with the AppScan products," Jack Danahy, former CTO of Ounce Labs and now a security executive within IBM Rational's CTO office, told InternetNews.com. "They were hearing from customers that we have broad language coverage and are used in some large deployments. So IBM concluded that it would make sense to jump ahead and combine their muscle in terms of customer confidence and combine the two technologies -- static and dynamic analysis."

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What will the web bring in 2010?

2010 is going to be an important year in the world of the web and the key issue is likely to be next-generation access.

2009 is nearly over, and what a year it has been for the web. Google has been the biggest mover and shaker of the year, with several exciting announcements, including Wave and Chrome OS.

Microsoft has launched a new OS too, and what's more, people seem to like it - undoubtedly good news after the Windows Vista fiasco.

But next-generation access (NGA) has probably been the biggest talking point in the UK this year and, more than likely, it will be in 2010, too.

As I've said before, 2010 will be a crucial year for the deployment of super-fast broadband in the UK. BT will need to keep hitting targets, as it already is, but much more important will be the general election.

A Conservative victory could see plans to deploy an NGA network capable of reaching 90 per cent of the population by 2017 scrapped, which would be bad news unless private investors and BT can be persuaded to do more to help.

The election will also affect the contentious Digital Economy Bill and its plans to deal with illegal file-sharing. However, it isn't clear whether the Tories would be more inclined to listen to consumer groups and ISPs and drop the current government's plans to cut suspected pirates off without the chance to plead their case.

But what else will we see in 2010? Well, there's likely to be a greater emphasis on mobile, web-connected devices. We might finally see a smartphone that can compete with the iPhone in terms of its web-browsing capabilities - in fact, it may have already arrived in the shape of the Motorola Droid, also known as the Milestone here in the UK.

There should be Chrome OS devices galore in the second half of the year - mainly netbooks, but there is a chance that some creative manufacturer will come up with a larger, more powerful system based on Google's open source OS.

Frustratingly, though, there could be bigger and more sophisticated security threats in 2010, too. Evidence suggests that botnets are becoming more self-sufficient, which means more spam and malware coming our way.

Hopefully, though, the multiplicity of competing platforms will deter cybercriminals from standing in the way of 2010's mobile revolution, though with the recent worms targeting the iPhone, it's hard to be sure.

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HTML 5 is the fifth major revision of the web's core language

HTML 5 is the fifth major revision of the web's core language and it has been designed to support the rapidly changing Web 2.0 world we live in today. Let's take a little tour of what this latest version means for web development.

Where We Come From

HTML 4.01 has been the standard for over a decade now. That's a long period, one that has seen many changes in how we build websites and applications for the internet.

Early versions of HTML were not designed to support web applications, although it has certainly served as the basis for many.

With the rise of Web 2.0 which includes much more advanced web applications and rich media like video, audio and animation, many have seen a need for a change.

And that change actually started back in late 2003, but only under copyright by Opera Software. It was in 2004 that Opera, Mozilla and Apple officially joined together announcing plans to continue work on the effort, moving the specifications to the WHATWG - Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group, an independent body which looks at HTML development from the perspective of the Web developer and browser deliverables - site.

The W3C expressed their interest in the work, chartering their own working group in 2007 to work with WHATWG. Opera, Mozilla and Apple agreed to let the W3C publish the HTML 5 spec under their copyright, although they did also decide to maintain a less restrictive license on the WHATWG site.

Where HTML 5 Will Take Us

The HTML 5 specification is still in active development. According to the W3C, it will not be considered complete until there are two complete implementations of the specification.

What are some of the impacts to Web Architecture?

  • DOM is used as the basis for defining the language
  • The concept of browsing context
  • There is a distinction between author requirements and user-agent requirements
  • New content model concepts
  • A Focus on accessibility as a built-in concept for new features
  • Offline Web application caches
  • Editable content inside the browser directly
  • The idea of sessions and browsing context
  • Drag and Drop and Copy and Paste architecture

And a lot more.

Elements and Attributes

A number of new elements have been introduced in this version, some for better structure (section, article, hearder, footer and more), others to support new types of media (like video, audio, canvas and datalists).

We took a closer look at many of these in our article, HTML 5 New Elements, New Draft, Update Report.

Along with new elements, there are new attributes for some existing elements and some new global attributes. Add to this a number of changed attributes and elements and it can all get a little confusing.

It is good to note that several elements are not in the new HTML 5 specification. The following three elements were deemed to effect usability and accessibility (and we're pretty sure many people cursed them):

  • frame
  • frameset
  • noframes

Also interesting to note that many of the presentational elements found in HTML 4 are not in HTML.

  • align attribute on caption, iframe, img, input, object, legend, table, hr, div, h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, p, col, colgroup, tbody, td, tfoot, th, thead and tr
  • alink, link, text and vlink attributes on body
  • background attribute on body
  • bgcolor attribute on table, tr, td, th and body
  • border attribute on table and object
  • cellpadding and cellspacing attributes on table

These elements and a number of others are considered better handled in CSS.

New APIs

We are talking about a specification to support web applications, so it makes sense there are some new APIs in the spec. There is an API for:

  • Building offline web apps
  • 2D drawings
  • Working with video and audio
  • Editing in the browser
  • Drag and Drop

Along with a number of new APIs there are also changes to both HTMLDocument and HTMLElement.

To get the most recent look at what has changed between HTML 4 and HTML 5, you can read the September update on the W3C website. They Aren't Done Yet

We expect there will still be a number of changes coming in the HTML 5 specification, including changes to support RDFa.

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Inaugural Windows 7 Service Pack on Its Way?

Windows 7 just shipped in late October, although it was "released to manufacturing" back in July -- so is it too soon to be thinking about the first service pack (SP) for the new system?

One blogger said he believes he's found clues that he surmises may portend the beginning of testing for Windows 7 SP1 by Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) sometime soon. The key is in the Windows registry.

What he found in poking around the registry were several special entries in Windows 7's registry that are apparently there to allow a service pack to run.

"Similar to previous external beta service pack rollouts, Microsoft has enabled -- via updates you already installed -- a beta 'candidacy check' within its Windows Update software," said a post over the weekend by Raphael Rivera on his Within Windows blog.

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Domain name extension "could boost cyber-crime"

The introduction of internet addresses in non-Roman scripts could offer fresh opportunities to cyber-criminals, experts have warned.

Next year the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) will for the first time accept internet domain names in non-Roman scripts. The domain name is the part of a web address that precedes the "dot", such as timesonline.

The new internationalised domain names will open up the internet as never before to users whose native language does not use the Roman alphabet. But Roman-reading users face a possible deluge of phishing and e-mail scams.

"With Cyrillic, Korean, Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Japanese scripts now possible, this threatens to be like a hydra," Simon Bennett, an intellectual property lawyer with the law firm Arnold & Porter, told The Times. "You cut off one head and another grows in its place."

The problem for Western users is that the internet addresses of many well-known companies, such as Apple, Yahoo, Google and PayPal, can also be rendered to look identical in Cyrillic scripts, such as Russian.

To a Roman-reading eye, an e-mail containing a link to any one of these sites might appear genuine, while to a Russian-reading eye, "paypal", for example, reads as "raural". An e-mail link could thus lead to a clone site constructed by unscrupulous thieves, who could then use it to harvest personal and financial details, or to steal cash.

This is known as "phishing", and Russia is such a known global centre for organised online crime that it has been the subject of special talks between the governments of Russian and the United States.

"They [Icann] seem to have started the process of allowing people to register domain names in non-Roman characters but don't seem to have put in place anything that obligates any registry to safeguard trademark rights or the rights of legitimate businesses that use the same name," Mr Bennett said.

There's going to be a lot more scope for people to take advantage. Icann just doesn't think these things through properly.

Asked whether companies and consumers would now have to be doubly cautious over misuse of trademark names, Mr Bennett said: "Absolutely. And at a time when companies can least afford to police these things, this is going to open the door to another level."

Charlie Abrahams of MarkMonitor, which monitors online trademark abuses for brands such as Gucci, agreed. "The risk for general brand abuse is going to increase exponentially," he said. "It's difficult enough in English."

"At present, most e-mail phishing does not use anything that resembles the real site name. We could see the level of sophistication in phishing attacks increased by the use of foreign languages."

Among other scripts about to be allowed by Icann, Japanese and Chinese in particular pose problems. As both languages use a writing system that is based on images rather than sounds, companies such as Apple and Paypal face the problem of choosing whether to register a local site that sounds like the company name, or corresponds to its meaning. In other words, should Apple choose the Chinese character for "Apple", or a combination of characters than sound like the word "Apple"?

"We haven't yet seen how the big brand owners are going to take on the new domain names," said Mr Abrahams, "though they typically just register their main brand name."

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Big Brands Gravitate Toward Twitter"

Major companies are taking to the microblogging service in record numbers for marketing, branding, customer support -- you name it. And at CES, a panel of experts explored their achievements.

With social networking on the rise, it's no wonder that major brands are looking for ways to co-opt the trend. Some of those successes were on display at this week at CES in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS -- Social media has changed the way people look for jobs, share pictures of their kids and find new love interests, but thus far the vast majority of large companies still aren't taking advantage of these sites and services to evangelize -- and protect -- their brands, according to a panel of social networking experts here at the Consumer Electronics Show.

For those companies willing to make the cultural commitment to the instantaneous praise and bashing served up 140 characters at a time on Twitter, the rewards can be considerable.

Jeffrey Hayzlett, Kodak's chief marketing officer, said that he learned firsthand after the company originally debuted its Zi8 waterproof, pocket-sized HD video camera earlier this year. The critics loved the functionality -- 1080p resolution, two-inch LCD screen, safe up to 10 feet in water -- but hated the name.

Most companies would either ignore the panning or, perhaps, send the product back to the sales and marketing gurus to come up with a better name.

Kodak didn't. Instead, this summer it took the naming process to the people via Twitter, asking the great unwashed masses on the microblogging site to see if they could come up with something better.

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Web Site Performance: When Seconds Count

It is time to talk about the changing role of Web sites in business. They are no longer simply online calling cards and repositories of marketing collateral. They've become the heartbeat of the organization, the public face, the online portal for employee and partner access. They're evolving to multi-function application hubs, interactive global mash-ups combining internal and external data and content, melded into a unified user experience.

From a Web perspective, once considered a secondary medium to print and other media, they're now business-critical infrastructure -- and as reliability of the global Internet improves, the availability and responsiveness of the Web site is becoming a key business metric. It's no longer simply a matter of whether the site is "up" or "down" -- it's whether the end-users' experience is optimized and their expectations met.

Top-performing Web sites from industry leaders have set a high bar in terms of user expectation for speed of response, degree of interaction, and overall reliability. Aberdeen found that in order to attract new customers, 60 percent of Best-in-Class enterprises identified that the top pressure driving their Web optimization initiative was the need to retain existing as well as attract new customers.

From a business perspective, enterprises are increasingly structured as globally distributed and dispersed work environments, and require a similarly distributed technical infrastructure. The enterprise applications and databases available via the Web often result in the only resources that connect these dispersed employees to the rest of the organization. As workers depend more and more upon remote network access to update, share and collaborate, network administrators and line-of-business managers are progressively more challenged to make sure that the access provided meets the expectation of a mission-critical business resource.

As a result, the test and measurement of Web site performance as accessed from different parts of the globe becomes a key metric.

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Google Bucking Chinese Censorship After Cyber Attack

Google has long complied with the government-mandated censorship required to operate in China, despite criticism from human rights and freedom of speech advocates. However, Google may be changing their tune, based on a blog post yesterday. Google's new approach to China is far more open-and at least partially because a Chinese cyber attack compromised some intellectual property of the search giant.

Naturally, Google is frequently the subject of cyber attacks, but this incident became more than just a security concern for Google. In addition to discovering dozens of other victims, Google has also determined the object of the breach-the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Google's investigation has shown, so far, that the attackers did not compromise the accounts, though they might have been able to access basic information (creation date, subject lines) on two of them. They also found that other third parties (likely phishers and malware on users' computers) had accessed other activists' accounts.

But Google's doing more than advising users to scan their computers and beefing up https access to Gmail (emphasis added):

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered-combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web-have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

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IT Needs to Manage Social Networking: Cisco

The rise in popularity for social networking sites like Facebook and microblogging services like Twitter is undeniable. Unfortunately for corporate IT, that trend extends deep into the workplace -- and that could be problematic. As this Datamation story explains, while enterprise solutions exist for managing manage or deploying in-house social networking services, IT may not even fully grasp the enormity of the situation, nor the tools available. That's the finding of a recent Cisco study.

In many enterprises today, social networking services and tools -- including Facebook and Twitter -- are used by employees, though often without any oversight from IT. Now networking giant Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is becoming the latest to warn that the lack of IT involvement poses problems that enterprises need to address.

Cisco's analysis comes as part of a new report it commissioned using research from global universities. The study included 105 respondents spread across 20 different countries. Seventy-five percent of respondents reported that their enterprises use social networks while 50 percent noted they used microblogging services like Twitter.

In sharp contrast, the Cisco study found that only 1 percent of respondents reported any direct IT involvement in their social networking activities.

"There is a tremendous amount of opportunity with social media, but the big question that cropped up is what could be achieved if there was kind of formal process in place to use the tools effectively,"

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Customer-Winning Tips for Search Engine Marketing with PPC

PPC is an incredibly competitive field to be marketing in! Of course, this is probably due to the big potential to get lots of easy conversions on your site . people looking in sponsored results are often ready to purchase something, and if you can afford to bid highest for an important keyword for your website, you are almost guaranteed 10% of the search traffic for the term. How do you make the most of that winning bid? We explore some guidelines for best search engine marketing below.

What are your competitors doing?

Search engine marketing experts can help you determine this, if you don't have a comprehensive idea already.

Budget management

Like on eBay, it is easy to get carried away with bidding on PPC terms. Always manage your budget carefully - number 1 is not the only position.

Textual rules

Adjectives like 'stunning', 'gorgeous', 'cheap' and 'value for money' aren't enticing . because they are so unoriginal. True though they may be, try to offer real value to the reader in your search engine marketing ads.

Less popular keywords

There is less competition for these, and you could get plenty of conversions at a lower cost

Destination URL choice

If customers see that the destination URL is related to their search, they are more likely to click, and more likely to eventually buy.

Monitor, monitor, monitor!

Always check on how your keywords are doing, where your bid is positioned, and how many people are converting from a particular keyword. Ignoring a campaign is the fastest way to waste money in search engine marketing.

B2B on weekdays, B2C on Sunday and Friday

Consumers are more active in their buying modes and researching modes on Sunday and Friday, businesses more so during business hours. Don't run B2B campaigns on weekends for best value from your dollar.

Geographic targeting

Even for services that can easily be provided completely in the cloud, many people are more likely to choose to deal with local services. Google AdWords and other platforms offer geographic targeting using their own defined regions; companies that use these see great results for their search engine marketing dollar

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Google Nexus One: First look

The search giant became a hardware supplier, launching its first Google-branded mobile phone.

Manufactured by HTC, Google has dubbed its Nexus One a 'superphone' - a cheeky label that implies it's the next step up from smartphones such as the iPhone or Blackberry.

As you'll see, the Google Nexus One specifications are impressive. Google suggests that its 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and 512MB of RAM provides similar processing power to a four-year-old laptop - astounding for a device that slips easily into a pocket.

This power allows the Nexus One to run Android 2.1, the latest version of Google's mobile-friendly operating system. All the Google services you'd expect are integrated into the phone, including Google Maps (which can use the built-in GPS to offer satellite navigation), Google Mail, Contacts (including integration with Facebook) and Android Market (18,000 third-party apps).

It also looks a treat. The unit is sleek and pocketable and has a sharp, bright and colourful screen with icons positioned on animated wallpapers. It also has four hardware buttons at the bottom to take you back to the homescreen and navigate to on-screen menus - something most touchscreen phones are moving away from - plus an alternative trackball controller if you want finer control.

One of the most interesting elements is that you can control it with your voice. Typing on a touchscreen isn't always ideal, so speaking your search terms into your phone is a great benefit. This becomes even more useful when you use it for maps and directions - the built-in GPS tied into Google Maps is excellent, and it's a lot easier to say 'directions to Paddington' than type it when you're already on the move.

Beyond this, there's little to the phone that can't be done by its rivals. The integration with Google's service is exemplary if you've already bought into them, but with apps and widgets available for most devices, this isn't enough to see the iPhone off just yet.

Because Google is selling the phone direct, you can either get a discounted phone tied into a contract or buy an unlocked phone that should work with your existing SIM, whether it's pay-as-you-go or on a contract. UK customers can expect to see an operator deal and an official UK launch (with a price in pounds) in the spring. However, in the mean time, if you really can't wait, you can buy an unlocked phone from the US for $529 (around £327) - Google assured us that it would work fine with the UK's 3G networks.

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Sitecore Says Integrated Analytics is a Must for Web CMS

In a recent survey conducted by Sitecore (news, site), the .NET Web Content Management software company discovered that the number of organizations implementing Web analytics has risen to nearly 90 percent. For a market that's expected to hit US$ 953 mil by 2014, we can't say we're surprised.

The bare-bones of today's sitch include the need for a better way of understanding site traffic and Web campaigns. As of late, that need often translates to integrated analytics. Marrying Web CMS, analytics and marketing automation, as well as integrating CRM systems, has become essential for organizations hoping to make a mark in 2010.

"These survey results highlight the importance of an integrated approach to Web content management and customer engagement," said Sitecore's CEO Michael Seifert. "We are no longer seeing sales and marketing tools and Web CMS platforms in silos. Our customers see the need for not only presenting the right content and offering advanced search and social media features, but the critical element of tracking website data to manage their sales pipeline with a much sharper radar to yield faster online conversions."

Other Key Survey Findings

Top drivers for implementing a Web CMS solution include:

  • Improving productivity (19 percent),
  • Improving customer service (11 percent)
  • Increasing sales leads (10 percent)
  • Building global brand awareness (10 percent)

As well as:

  • More than 33 percent of respondents plan to integrate online video management as part of their 2010 WCM initiatives
  • More than two-thirds of respondents use LinkedIn the most for professional use with Facebook and Twitter closely behind
  • Over half of the respondents (53 percent) stated that Web Forms are key components of building an interactive website

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